American students may be lagging globally in math and science, but hey: Everyone feels good about themselves! Such is the strategy of schools today as they focus on feelings and self-esteem rather than academic rigor and excellence. Yet another school district demonstrated this, striving to win the great race for mediocrity, by making the decision not to honor valedictorians. In a board meeting Wednesday night, members decided Colorado Springs School District 11 would stop honoring the top two academic achievers by grade point average — otherwise known as valedictorians — and instead "switch to Latin honor designations for top academic achievers."
The decision was made in part because, as a school spokesman claimed, the competition was getting too petty — students were competing for "one-tenth of a percentage point difference."
While the logistics of calculating GPAs within percentage points might be frustrating or seem petty, it's also obvious the intent might be to achieve ease, but the end result rewards mediocrity and ignores excellence.
More and more school systems, with Common Core at the helm, seem to be losing focus on academics in favor of worrying about social issues, self-esteem, and whether kids feel good or accepted in their environment — sacrificing knowledge for feelings.
For example, this school in Indiana crowned the first-ever transgender student as prom "king."
Recognizing a transgender student as prom "king" yet ignoring a student who has excelled academically is like throwing a class party for the best-dressed student yet ignoring the kid who has gotten into Harvard on scholarship. It's not that the former is a bad thing, but that the latter shouldn't be completely thrown out the window, treated as de facto when it really should be de jure.
Education is about preparing students for life and empowering them to take on the world as adults. While a solid self-esteem is a good thing, that's not necessarily a school's job. Schools need to focus more on rigorous education — and then rewarding those who achieve goals — rather than making everyone, whether it be the C students or the transgender students, feel good about themselves. Rewarding students who achieve the highest GPA possible is, for many, reflective of work ethic and determination, and it's a tradition that should continue.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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